I did my student teaching in an urban fifth grade classroom. It was a very diverse group of children, of many different cultures and backgrounds. One child, X, lived in a group home down the block from the school. He had been through several foster families before ending up in residence there, removed from his parents for neglect.
Although he was not at the head of the class scholastically, X always had a pencil in his hand. He loved to draw, and was good at it. He drew killer whales. Actually, one whale in particular: Willy, from X’s favorite movie, Free Willy. On the top of his desk, on his notebooks, on the board when no one was looking, on the side of a giant roll of newsprint during the class field trip to the local newspaper, he drew Willy everywhere. The fact that Willy had achieved logo status was a double-edged sword for X — it made him famous with the other students, but teachers always knew whom to blame. X talked about the movie frequently, eyes bright whenever a class discussion stumbled into something that might serve as a convenient segue.
It was not hard to figure out why Willy was so important to X, taken from his family, in the clutches of the foster system, longing for home. Poignantly, Willy gets an advocate and is saved. I’ve always wondered if this boy’s hope to get out of the foster system and into a more stable situation was ever realized.
It got me thinking about what a favorite movie or book might say about each of us. Since that time, I’ve made a point of asking friends about their favorite titles, and have been intrigued with the psychological consistency of their responses. Asking an acquaintance at a party the title of his or her favorite book could be a lot more illuminating than, “What’s your sign?”
Ironically, I don’t have a favorite book, and until recently didn’t have a favorite movie. (Coincidentally, it’s also a story with whales, Whale Rider. Feel free to analyze.)
Your favorite book – what does it say about you?